John Cusack, Joan Cusack and Amanda Peet star in Martian Child, a light family drama that works its magic well enough, yet never fully capitalizes on its concept. The result is an okay but subdued drama that will quickly be forgotten.
Cusack plays a lonely science-fiction writer who is still mourning the loss of his wife a few years back. Determined to get back in the swing of things, he is urged by one of his friends to adopt a little boy who is right up his alley: the boy believes he's from the planet Mars, spends most of his time inside a cardboard box and wears a weight belt to prevent floating away. While one may argue on how beneficial it would be for this kid to go live with a widower, the two strike up an awkward bond of friendship.
Martian Child is yet another moderately decent entry starring John Cusack, who, as my brother properly describes, is the "king of mediocre movies." Most of his movies are decent and mildly entertaining, but few, especially over the last decade, really leave any lasting impression on you. Cusack is a good actor, but he seems to steadily revert back to these safe, harmless films. Is it because he's afraid to try something truly new, or does he play it safe to simply satisfy his faithful core audience? Regardless, Martian Child is a very, very safe movie, and it works as such yet I can't imagine there were any expectations that this film would be remembered a year from now.
One thing I found really odd about the movie was the brief suggestion that the kid really was from Mars. There is a stretch of about ten or twenty minutes where Cusack's character plays with the idea that maybe this kid is from Mars, after the kid successfully makes a losing baseball team to come back and win, helps Cusack avoid a car accident and a few other things. This element made the movie interesting for a little bit, but the screenplay abandons this concept shortly thereafter. Ultimately, the idea that the kid is from another planet becomes lost by the end of the film, which makes you wonder why it was ever included in the first place.
Personally, I would have preferred if the movie had taken a slightly more sci-fi approach to the story. As is, Martian Child is just like a hundred other films; both John and Joan Cusack are good, but they're working with pretty standard, melodramatic material. Those who like this brand of John Cusack films will probably enjoy Martian Child, but even they will forget it within a year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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